Fired Surgery Schedulers Allege Discrimination
ROSEVILLE, Calif. (CN) - Kaiser discriminated against Christian surgery schedulers and retaliated against a union shop steward, the five women claim in Placer County Superior Court.
Meagan Allen, Yolanda Alvarado, Veronica Cluck, Laura Fenner and Carissa Ward sued Kaiser Permanente and supervisors Tracy Nunes and Carolyn Purvis. They allege religious discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, unlawful retaliation, hostile work environment harassment, failure to prevent harassment, negligent hiring, supervision and retention, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful termination.
“When Ms. Nunes became the department manager for surgery scheduling at the Roseville, Calif. Kaiser facility in Sept. 2012, the entire culture of the department changed. Ms. Nunes appeared to have an agenda that went beyond the quality of the work being performed by the employees. Throughout the remainder of 2012 and all of 2013, Ms. Nunes discriminated against employees in the department who were active in their union and who stated that they had religious objections to performing abortions at Kaiser,” the complaint states.
“Ms. Nunes used preferential treatment toward employees based on their religious affiliation, union affiliation, age and pregnancy in an attempt to gain influence and control over the staff of the department, creating an atmosphere in which older employees, union stewards, Christian employees and a pregnant employee were subjected to harassment, intimidation, unequal treatment, discrimination, retaliation, embarrassment, injury, defamation, harm and censure when other employees of different status were favored,” it continues.
Allen, Alvarado, Cluck and Ward objected on religious grounds to scheduling abortion services, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiffs are Christians and made several requests to be accommodated so that they would not need to schedule abortions. Defendants and their agents and employees knew of plaintiffs’ religion and requests for accommodation at the time of the above-entitled actions. Plaintiffs openly informed Kaiser management that they objected to scheduling abortions and stated that they supported that no employee should be forced to book abortions when the surgical scheduling staff was large and included numerous employees who did not object to scheduling abortions,” the complaint states.
Allen additionally claims that Kaiser discriminated against her when she became pregnant. She was told she would be fired unless she changed positions, she claims. After applying for over 20 positions, the one she found paid $3.27 less per hour than her previous job, she says.
“Ms. Allen believes that her demotion was motivated by her religious beliefs, union affiliation, and her pregnancy,” the complaint states.
Alvarado, Cluck and Ward all claim they were fired on pretextual grounds, when the true reason was discrimination based on their religion.
Fenner, a union shop steward who was also Alvarado’s daughter, alleges Nunes targeted her because of her support for the other women’s discrimination claims.
Fenner claims other employees were allowed to receive personal phone calls on their cell phones as long as they stepped outside the department to answer. But Nunes followed her and listened while she took a medical-related call about her daughter and a call in her shop steward capacity a week later, Fenner claims.
Fenner filed a grievance, after which Nunes began writing her up in order to intimidate her, according to the complaint.
“Ms. Fenner was placed on back to back administrative leaves. When she returned, Ms. Nunes and Ms. Purvis made the work environment so abusive that she was required to take a six month stress leave of absence. Upon her return, she was immediately placed on another administrative leave for an ‘investigation’ by Ms. Nunes and yet another disciplinary process,” the complaint states.
“Ms. Fenner reported on multiple occasions that she was being subjected to harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based on (1) her role as a shop steward supporting other employees who brought forward complaints of discrimination against Ms. Nunes and (2) her support of employees in the department who made religious objections to scheduling abortions,” the complaint states.
But Kaiser did nothing about it and ultimately Fenner was fired, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs seek general, special and exemplary damages, interest on loss of earnings, deferred compensation and other employee benefits, costs of suit, attorney’s fees and declaratory judgment. They are represented by William L. Bowen of the Bowen Law Firm in Roseville.